The BD-HP21U ($300) is the follow-up to Sharp's BD-HP20U, a Profile 1.0 player released in 2007. This is a Profile 1.1/BonusView player, which means it contains the necessary audio and video decoders for picture-in-picture content, but it lacks the BD-Live Web functionality you get when you move up to Profile 2.0. We have not performed a hands-on review of the BD-HP21U, but here is an overview of the player's features. In terms of connectivity, this unit covers the basics but lacks some higher-end options. On the video side, you get HDMI 1.3, component video, and composite video outputs (no S-video). Via the HDMI output, you can pass Blu-ray signals in their native 1080p/24 resolution to compatible display devices. On the audio side, the BD-HP21U offers HDMI, optical digital audio (no coaxial), and 2-channel analog audio outputs, but it does not have 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. The player can internally decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and it can pass these formats in their native bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. The player can pass 7.1-channel PCM audio over HDMI.
Sharp has also released a step-up model, the $400 BD-HP50U, which has the same basic features as the HP21U but a slightly higher-end aesthetic with a glossier finish and a powered front door with on-unit controls. More importantly, the BD-HP50U adds RS-232 and IR control ports for integration into an advanced control system, features not found on most players in this price range.
• The BD-HP21U lacks 7.1-channel analog audio outputs, so it's not the best choice for someone who owns an older, non-HDMI A/V receiver.
• It is not a Profile 2.0 player and lacks an Ethernet port.
• It does not support playback of the MP3, WMA, or Divx formats.
• We have seen reports that the Quick Start feature is only effective with some discs, and a disc must already be inserted in the player in order to cue it up in 10 seconds.
Sharp's BD-HP21U Blu-ray player offers a solid assortment of features for a good price. However, given that other big-name Blu-ray manufacturers now offer Profile 2.0 players with even more functionality for the same (or less) money, the BD-HP21U is at a competitive disadvantage in the mainstream marketplace.